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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Washington: Ancestry-specific Genetic Variation at APOE Alzheimer’s Gene Modifies Disease Risk

In a new study of more than 3,000 Caribbean Hispanics, researchers from the University of Washington found that individuals with African ancestry at a key Alzheimer’s gene had 39 percent lower odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease than individuals with European ancestry at the gene.

Called apolipoprotein E (APOE), the gene is known to be the strongest genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, with an E2 allele associated with protective effects and an E4 allele associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The study reveals that ancestry-specific genetic variation in the APOE region can significantly modify that risk. Results were published online Oct. 9 in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

“The results from our study have important implications for the use of personalized genetic risk in populations with diverse ancestries, even for well-established risk factors,” said senior author Dr. Tim Thornton, associate professor of biostatistics at the University of Washington School of Public Health. “While we found that inheriting APOE E4 is clearly important for Alzheimer’s disease risk in Caribbean Hispanics, we also found that from whom the risk allele is inherited is also of importance. Caribbean Hispanic individuals who inherited their APOE E4 from European ancestors had greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared to individuals who inherited APOE E4 from African ancestors, after adjusting for other known risk factors.”

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